shoeshine boy

the little boy stoops
next to your shoes,
holding a dirty rag
in his hand. why does he want
to clean your shoes
when they are mildewed, stitches coming
loose, seams on the verge of exposing
your feet like a national secret?
your new shoes were a waste
of money; they pinched your toes
until they turned blue. the old shoes begged
to be worn. you look into
the boy’s eyes. they ask
for truth but not mercy. you let him run
his rag over your feet and later
when he is gone, you bend down
to check the state of your shoes,
only to see them clean
like they have never been
used at all.

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